April 4, 2008

NCEA Convention

Young adults at NCEA convention live out their faith by teaching

By Sean Gallagher

In his keynote address on March 26 at the National Catholic Educational Association’s annual convention in Indianapolis, Bishop Blase J. Cupich of Rapid City, S.D., set out a plan for Catholic educators to help their teenage and young adult students embrace the faith.

Listening to him were a handful of young adults who have done just that.

Colleen Keller, who is 28, teaches kindergarten at the Jesuit-run Red Cloud Indian School in Pine Ridge, S.D.

Keller grew up in a suburb of New York and did undergraduate work at the nearby Fordham University. After graduating, she participated in a two-year teaching program operated by Jesuit-run Loyola University Chicago called LU-CHOICE (Loyola University Chicago Opportunities in Catholic Education).

Keller said what keeps her in Catholic education is her love of Christ, something that Bishop Cupich said was the first thing that Catholic teachers need to pass on to their students.

“I have this strong connection and intimacy with Christ and I want to share that with my students,” she said. “That’s why I’m there. That’s why I put up with the late nights and the lesson planning. It’s to share that love of Christ that I have with my students.”

Joining Keller at the NCEA convention was Kyle Rickbeil, 26, originally from St. Cloud, Minn., who now teaches religion to middle-school students at Trinity School in Ellicott City, Md.

Before taking his current position, he had participated in Operation Teach, a program similar to Loyola’s at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland in Baltimore. The School Sisters of Notre Dame operate the college.

While in the program, Rickbeil lived in a community with other young adults who were being introduced to teaching in Catholic schools.

As he was listening to Bishop Cupich, his experience of living with other Catholic young adults was affirmed.

Bishop Cupich noted that passing on the value of community can be difficult today in a culture that often idolizes individuality and autonomy.

“I need to be enthusiastic to come back to my students to teach them religion every morning because, some days, the enthusiasm is hard to come by,” Rickbeil said. “And a lot of what we did was mine that enthusiasm from one another. When we live in community, we build that enthusiasm in one another.”

Keller and Rickbeil were attending the NCEA convention as representatives of the University Consortium for Catholic Education, an umbrella organization for 14 university programs that trains recent graduates to teach in Catholic schools. †

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